Mastering the art of pitching: Phil Waknell and Michael Rickwood meet the start-ups

Publié le 10 février 2014 par Verity Baynton

Last week, Phil Waknell and Michael Rickwood from Ideas on Stage spent a day at Le Camping to give each team pertinent advice to help them fine-tune their pitches.

The essentials of pitching: "content and delivery"


Last week, in preparation for the approaching Demo Day, the Campers had the pleasure of testing their 6-minute pitches in front of two experts in the field: Phil Waknell and Michael Rickwood from leading presentation expert Ideas on Stage. Together, they boast extensive experience in both the business and acting worlds, equipping them with priceless advice, techniques, and insights from which the teams can learn to lend punch to their pitches.


Pitching is about both content and delivery. Eye contact, for example, is essential. Michael shared his technique of sticking post-it notes up at various points around the room when practicing the presentation. “Fix only on those points when you’re practising, pretend they’re eyes. It trains you to keep moving your eye contact.”


It is just as important to engage the audience through eye contact as to engage the audience by knowing who you are talking to, and personalising the pitch taking this into account.

Aiming at journalists? “You need to make them fall in love with [your start-up]”, advised Phil. “You need them to want to write an article about it.” If the aim is to grab investors’ attention, Phil and Michael advised a different approach. It relies on showing them why they should invest.



“Investing in a start-up is like running into a burning building. Investors need to know they can get in, but also get out again.”


 In other words, the pitch should demonstrate ambitious plans to expand – whether this be in terms of growing the client base, moving into an international market, or applying the same business model to a related area – and thus increase profitability, and the likelihood of offers to buy the business.


Where investors are concerned, Phil and Michael also emphasised the importance of showing them that you are the right people for the start-up – or you run the risk that they will want to buy your start-up and insert a new CEO. Emphasising your complementary skills and experience in the area will boost the team’s credibility, and assure the investors’ confidence by demonstrating that they are dealing with real experts.



“Opportunity is the ocean. Are there already some sharks in that ocean? Investors will think about who else has had that idea.”

The focus of the pitch is of course your start-up, but it is also important to include an overview of potential competitors and to then show what you do that they don’t do, or what you do better/cheaper/in a more user-friendly way/on a more international scale.


Talking international, Phil and Michael reminded the start-ups that the Demo Day audience will be exactly that. So, this means choosing international examples to demo the product over French-specific ones, finding English play-on-words to use in parallel to start-up names that work on a jeu de mots, and getting the patent before a competitor on the other side of the Atlantic does. As Phil put it, “You’re not French start-ups – you are worldwide start-ups on French soil."



Simplicity and originality are key


And finally, the conclusion, or, “the call to action”. “Don’t be afraid to be simple”, Phil advised. The conclusion is the time to remind the audience of what it is you do, demonstrate it with a video or story of it in action, and land a final impact with a snappy ending that invites investors to find out more.


Above all, the message that resonated throughout the day was that there is no right or wrong way to do it. Certain elements need to be there – presenting the team and why they are the right people, talking about the problem, the opportunity to which it gives rise and the solution brought about – but after that, the structure and how each section is presented have no magic formula. Be convincing, be creative, be original. “You want people to remember you the next day”, advised Phil.


And that, above all, will be the aim for the Campers come Demo Day.